Aversive Collars – humane or abusive?

There are many different things that people consider to be abusive to animals that are still legal. Collars can be a controversial issue based on the type that a person chooses to use. Opinions vary on these issues. Majority of the argument is that if it is being used abusively it is due to user error.

Here is a list of collars that may cause some controversy. All of these collars are legal and when used properly are not legally considered abusive. (Information taken from http://www.humanesociety.org)

Aversive collars

These collars rely on physical discomfort or even pain to teach the dog what not to do. Some trainers use aversive collars to train “difficult” dogs with correction or punishment. These are to be used only after positive training methods have failed.

Issue: It is said that they only suppress the unwanted behavior but don’t teach the dog what the proper one is. At best, they are unpleasant for your dog, and at worst, they may cause your dog to act aggressively and even bite you.

Types of Aversive Collars

Choke chain

As the name implies, this collar is made of metal links and is designed to control your dog by tightening around your dog’s neck. It is supposed to sit high up on the dog’s neck just behind his ears.

Issue: There is no way to control how much the choke chain tightens so it’s possible to choke or strangle your dog. It can also cause other problems, too, such as injuries to the trachea and esophagus, blood vessels in the eyes, neck sprains, nerve damage, fainting, transient paralysis, and even death.

If you choose to use one: Consult an experienced trainer to learn how to properly size, fit, and use it. And never leave a choke chain on your dog as his regular collar; the chain could catch on something and choke your dog!

Prong or pinch

The control loop that the leash is attached to is made of chain. The loop that fits around your dog’s neck is made of a series of fang-shaped metal links, or prongs, with blunted points. When the control loop is pulled, the prongs pinch the loose skin of your dog’s neck. Like the choke chain, the prong collar must be properly fitted. The size of the prong links should be appropriate for the size of your dog.

Issue: The collar needs to be placed correctly. It should sit high up on your dog’s neck just behind his ears. The fit should be snug so the prong links can’t shift to the front of your dog’s neck where they might pinch your dog’s trachea.

If you choose to use one: Consult an experienced trainer to learn how to properly size, fit, and use it.


Shock collars use electric current passing through metal contact points on the collar to give your dog a signal. This electric signal can range from a mild tickling sensation to a painful shock.

Shock collars are sold as training devices and to stop barking. They are also used with pet containment (electronic fencing) systems.

Issue:  The most controversial use of the shock collar, and considered the least humane issue, is using the shock collar as a training device. The trainer can administer a shock to a dog at a distance through a remote control. There is a greater chance for abuse (delivery of shocks as punishment) or misuse (poor timing of shocks). Your dog also may associate the painful shock with people or other experiences, leading to fearful or aggressive behavior.

Electronic fencing

Electric fencing uses shock collars to deliver a shock when the dog approaches the boundaries of the “fenced” area. Typically, the shock is preceded by a tone to warn the dog he is about to get shocked.

Issue: Shock collars can cause irritation and inflammation of your dog’s neck skin.

If you choose to use one:  Don’t leave the electronic collar on for an extended length of time. Clean your dog’s neck and the contact points that touch your dog’s neck regularly.


Bark Control Collars

Though several types of collars are available to control excessive or unwanted barking, none of them address the root cause of the barking. Dogs can bark for several reasons, such as fear or territorial behavior.

Issue: Though some bark collars may reduce barking, they will not reduce the stress that causes a dog to bark.

Types of Bark Control Collars


Barking causes these collars to emit a burst of citronella or air which interrupts and deters your dog from barking.

Issue: Spray collars sometimes don’t react to high-pitched barks, making them ineffective. Also, when your dog is with other dogs, another dog’s bark may trigger your dog’s collar.


Considered the least humane is the shock collar which delivers an electrical shock to your dog when he barks. Instead of using a shock collar, consider using a vibration collar, which send out a vibration, not electric shock, to get your dog’s attention. Vibrating collars can be useful to train a deaf dog who can’t hear your voice or a clicker.


When your dog barks, the ultrasonic collar interrupts him by emitting a sound only your dog can hear.




Now that you know some facts, what do you think? Should any of these be considered illegal or abusive? Discuss!

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